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Three chords and you're all set to play 1000 songs
Jun 16, 2007 01:53 PM 2927 Views

I got my first taste of a musical instrument several years ago, when I was just a little tyke with a huge mop of hair on my head that always covered my eyes(that hasn't changed.). It was a German recorder, a flute variant that had holes in weird places and was quite a challenge to play. With some help from the teachers, I eventually could play a few pieces but the course got cut off and so did my aspirations to become the next Mozart.

I still have that German Recorder and I do pick it up occasionally to see if I can play a tune or two. To be honest, if there's ever a group of instruments that have given me grief, it's the wind instruments. I tried the clarinet a few years ago but ended up abusing it each time I laid my eyes on it. Who on earth put so many holes into one pipe?

Then I had my first serious affair with a musical instrument. I lost my musical virginity to a keyboard that I picked up with everything I had earned till that point. From then on, it's all been trial and error, read and work out. taught myself some chords. started playing songs. built myself as I went along.

Over the years, the knowledge grew and spread across a few other instruments viz. the guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, harmonica etc.

The whole process might have been faster if I had the luxury of a teacher but at that point of time, the next meal was the important thing.

Let's just compare these two aspects.


The Self Educated Musician vs. The Coached One


Teaching yourself may not be the fastest method out there. It's much easier if you have someone showing you what string to pull and what key to bang. Instructor based training is also good for building the correct technique.

What I don't like about instructor based training is that some teachers tend to mould students according to what they believe is right. Music is expression and each one has his own way of expressing. Instructors sometimes stiffle and often make changes to a student's technique just because they consider their technique, the right one.

Also, some instructors are selfish. They will only skim the waters and shield you from some of the unique aspects of music so that you don't get ahead of them. Tis true.

So if you ask me what I'd pick between the two. I'd say. a combination of both. It's great to have help at the start. Then you figure out new things through new age media. The internet has tons of resources and there are plenty of instruction videos out there. Eventually, you can supplement and grow by going for music workshops and sharing techniques with fellow musicians.


The Classical Musician


Classical music is incedible but very demanding in it's form. It takes hours of chipping away at music theory and practicing scales. The discipline required is such that it would take an incredible amount of dedication to reach a decent level of proficiency.


The Low Down


  • Go with that voice from deep inside. decide whether you want to pick up an instrument or train your voice.

  • NEXT: DECIDE WHETHER YOU WANT TO GO DOWN THE CLASSICAL PATH OR NOT. The advantage of learning the classical way is that you will be an incredible musician. The disadvantage is that it will take you several years to get there. If your whole idea of music is playing Beethoven or Bach in front of a quiet crowd, classical is the way to go. Otherwise, just learn the instrument the quick and easy way(learn chords, learn a few scales, play your favourite songs.)

  • Once you zero in on what you want to learn, you have a few ways of going about it - Enroll in a music school, employ a private tutor or gather resources and chip away on your own. Music Schools make sense if you are looking for diplomas or certificates.

  • Finally, it's not an easy road but it does get easier as it goes. If you can weather a bit of physical torture and long hours of practice. it's definitely worth it.


Parting thought


The musical instruments I hold close to me have seen me through every rough patch I've had. It's like the best friend you can ever have. Plus, they never ask you for money, turn their backs to you or steal your best t-shirt and sunglasses.


Psyxx - the educator


I do a 4-hour-a-week stint at the montessori school nearby teaching a whole lot of primary school kids how to make noise with instruments. It's an incredible experience that has made all those years of toil, so rewarding. Last year, with just 5 months of learning. they put up a concert for their parents. Psyxx. shed a tear of joy backstage.


PS: If anyone needs help getting started, drop me a note.

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